Monday, June 25, 2012

Over and over again in various online Amateur Radio forums I read the same (elitist) lament from our "regulatory fundamentalists" how "horrible" it is that some of today's Extra Class operators need "hand-holding" to build such things as an ordinary dipole antenna.

To me, what's really "horrible" about such comments is that they reflect the myopic expectation that our licensing system is (or should be) the sole source of learning in our Service.  

For some reason, this nonsense seems to run rampant in our Service (particularly among our "regulatory fundamentalists"). Apparently, in the narrow minds of this crowd, once a newcomer successfully passes an Extra Class exam, there should be absolutely no need for such newcomers to learn anything else...and certainly not to (gasp!) ask "dumb" questions in online forums about "basic" things...like how to build a simple dipole.

Clearly, such comments are the amateur radio version of, "Back when we went to school we had to walk uphill both ways in the snow".  Or, more to the point, these comments are yet another reflection of this crowd's extreme displeasure at what they see as an overall "dumbing down" of the US licensing structure.

Unfortunately, the whole idea that our licensing system teaches us everything we need to know about our hobby is absolutely ludicrous on its face. And it always has been.

Indeed, if the material that's examined on the Extra Class exam is so absolutely ESSENTIAL for safe and courteous operation in our Service, why, then, are some 83 percent of all US licensed hams allowed to self-select themselves OUT of taking it?  

Or, to put it another way, if that so-called "Extra Class" material is so essential to maintaining a high level of technical competence (not to mention good order and discipline) in our Service, then it seems to me that only about 17 Percent of all US hams have now demonstrated their mastery of these subjects because only about 17 percent now hold Extra Class licenses.

Or, to put it another way, it would now seem that there are a whole lotta folks out there "dropping thru the crack"...and probably always have been...ever since the FCC hatched their stupid "incentive" licensing foolishness.

The bottom line here is that the Extra Class exam has always been nothing more than an "achievement" test vice an exam to determine one's mastery of essential competencies. That reality, in turn, makes the whole Extra Class nonsense an "unnecessary regulatory barrier" (to use the FCC's legal terminology) to full access to supposedly otherwise already qualified (i.e. General Class) applicants to the PUBLIC airwaves that are the Amateur Radio bands.

And, once again, it's THAT inconvenient truth that now makes the Extra Class exam systemically discriminatory (and therefore patently illegal to both maintain and administer) under a whole plethora of 1990s-era US equal access laws.

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